February Newsletter

Medicaid Block Grant: Tennesseans across the state have stood up, including many Roundtable members who responded to recent NJSJR calls to action, to oppose Tennessee’s harmful Medicaid Block Grant proposal. While the Federal comment period has ended, we will have more opportunities in the future to be heard. Tennessee is the first state in the nation to ask the federal government to convert its current Medicaid programs (called “TennCare”) into a “block grant” which will be a major setback for those most in need. The Block Grant poses significant threats to the numbers who can be insured as well as the depth of coverage and protections they will receive (https://www.tnjustice.org/blockgrant/). Here are some ways you can continue to advocate:

  • Take 3 minutes to call Governor Lee (615-265-6090) and ask him to withdraw Tennessee’s Medicaid Block Grant proposal! Call Governor Lee to demand that he withdraw Tennessee’s Medicaid Block Grant proposal and instead lead an effort to actually address our state’s urgent healthcare needs. Click here to call Governor Lee TODAY.
  • Share this social media post to spread the word.

One of the many reasons we oppose block grants is that the state has already proven that they are capable of mishandling the moneys given to them. Lawmakers continue to examine, in astonishment, how the state amassed $732 million in federal funds intended to help low-income Tennessee parents get back to work. The state has responded with unacceptable reasons for this hoarding of dollars meant to serve the most vulnerable. Most lawmakers consider the explanations thus far provided as an incomplete portrait of how Tennessee accumulated the largest surplus of anti-poverty funds in the nation while 23% of the state’s children live in poverty.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement: “By encouraging states to cap federal funds for Medicaid expansion (through block grants), the Trump administration is fundamentally undermining Medicaid and jeopardizing access to health care for the most vulnerable Americans. Block grants would overturn the existing funding system, under which the federal government takes care of 90 percent of all costs for people covered by Medicaid expansion, effectively cutting federal funding and lessening the ability of states to cover the full cost of providing life-saving coverage for those in need of care.”

Immigration (National): With the President’s reelection campaign in full swing, the Administration is doubling down on his anti-immigrant agenda. We recently learned that the administration is expanding its travel ban to include citizens from six new countries. Even more alarming, we learned that the administration’s “public charge” rule temporarily took effect, giving the government a way to exclude people with disabilities as well as low-income families from our immigration system. Every day, thousands of people fleeing dangerous conditions are denied refuge as Trump tries to dismantle our asylum system. But there is something you can do right now to fight back … tell Congress that they should NOT use federal funds for the president’s new “public charge” rule. If this rule is implemented, immigrant families will be forced to choose between health care, food and homes, and a safe, stable future in the U.S. because using life-saving programs — like SNAP — could threaten their pathway to a green card in the future. Take 60 seconds to raise your voice with ours by clicking here.

Immigration (Tennessee): It’s not over. Despite Gov. Lee’s support for refugee resettlement, Tennessee is again going to be an anti-refugee battleground. At least five bills have been filed in the state legislature designed to reverse the Governor’s decision. We need to act on this … doing so will only take a minute to do. Please send a message to your state representatives and county commissioners telling them you support refugee resettlement and oppose efforts to undermine the Governor’s decision. To take action click here.

The Nashville Community Bail Fund: At a press release event this week, the Nashville Bail Fund and other local and national partners (The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, The American Civil Liberties (National), Civil Rights Corps, and the Choosing Justice Initiative) announced that they would be filing a federal lawsuit challenging Davidson County bail practices. Everyone – no matter how much money they have – has a constitutional right to due process under the law and is presumed innocent before proven guilty. On any given day, nearly 900 low income people sit caged in Nashville’s jails awaiting trial simply because they cannot afford to buy their freedom through cash bail. Since 2016, The Nashville Community Bail Fund (NCBF) has deposited bail in excess of $2,000,000 and freed over 1,000 people trapped in jail simply because they could not afford bail. Since its inception NCBF has operated on an exemption granted by previously sitting Davidson County Criminal Court Judges allowing it to receive a full refund of bail at the end of the case to use in helping others. Davidson County’s Criminal Court Judges recently revoked the exemption. The bail now deposited by the NCBF will be subject to court costs, restitution and fines, reducing the resources available to those who cannot afford bail. Without the exemption, the NCBF’s ability to help those without means to be released before trial to return to their families, places of work, and receive medical treatment will be seriously impaired. Research shows that when a person is held in jail pretrial, they are more likely to plead guilty, even when they are not, and/or receive a harsher sentence. The Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable stands in strong support of this challenge by the NCBF.

A few sad slim to none musings …

  • Living Wage: The chances of the Tennessee Legislature passing an increase in minimum wage, or allowing cities in Nashville to pass local legislation to address a livable wage, are south of slim. Yet by this spring 24 states and 48 cities will have adopted a minimum wage of $15. Sad we are not yet among them.
  • Medicaid Expansion primarily covers low-income adults and has been proven to increase access to health care for the poorest among us. Vanderbilt recently released an extensive study that supports Medicaid expansion, clearly demonstrating that it unquestionably saves lives. This is coupled with the gigantic amount of evidence accrued that accepting Medicaid expansion is the financially prudent thing for our state to do. Medicaid expansion primarily covers low-income adults and has been proven to increase access to care and save lives. Yet the chances of our state adopting Medicaid expansion (even Kansas just did) are sadly south of slim.

Stand Against Racism 2020: The YWCA of Middle Tennessee is gearing up for its annual community-wide Stand Against Racism 2020 with activities leading up to a community rally and voter registration drive on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Here are three of the many activities you can participate in prior to the community rally:

  • Thursday, February 27, 2020, 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Panel Discussion | Music to Mobilization in a Racial Justice Movement. Register here.
  • Thursday, March 26, 2020,11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch & Learn | Disenfranchisement, Voter Restoration & A Path Toward Racial Justice. Register here.
  • Tuesday, April 14, 2020, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Panel Discussion | Women in the Movement: A Multigenerational Conversation about Nashville’s Civil Rights and Racial Justice Movements (location TBA).

FYI … our Roundtable Steering Committee sent two messages to the Governor on behalf of our membership. In the first, we thanked him for supporting the resettlement of refugees in our state, an unpopular decision among his ranks. In the second we commended him for his proactive stance on extended paid leave for health and child care-related needs for state employees … an action we hope others will emulate.

Upcoming events you might want to consider:

  • Rabbi Jeffrey Meyers from the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh will be in Nashville as a guest of the Jewish Federation to speak at The Temple at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, February 10, about the traumatic experience the Pittsburgh community and his synagogue experienced when a gunman opened fire on worshippers. Given the rise in race-centric language and hate related actions against all faith traditions, it is timely that our community comes together to consider how difficult it is to live and grow up with racism of any form. This program is open to the community.
  • Human Trafficking: Our local Hadassah chapter is hosting a panel discussion at the JCC on Thursday, February 13, at 7:00 p.m., which will shed light on the dangers of Human Trafficking. The panel will include Judge Ana Escobar, Assistant District Attorney Sarah Wolfson, and a survivor of human trafficking. There is a suggested donation request of $18.
  • Gun Safety: On Wednesday, February 19, at 7:00 p.m., The Temple will be hosting a community presentation entitled “Walk the Talk on Gun Violence: A Conversation About Safety, Right, and Legislation.” WNPL’s Blake Farmer will moderate a panel of experts including Dr. Jonathan Metzl, author of Dying of Whiteness; Beth Joslin Roth, Executive Director of Safe TN Project; Kerry Roberts, State Senator; Rasheedat Fetuga, founder of Gideon’s Army; and a representative from the Metropolitan Police Department who will provide local statistical information.
  • March 3 Elections: All elections are critical … and we have another important one coming up. The Presidential Preference Primary and County Primary Election will take place on Tuesday, March 3. Early voting begins on February 12. Please be sure to vote and to bring others with you to do the same.
  • This year’s Community Relations Committee Seder, “Stronger Than Hate,” will celebrate our Kurdish community, the largest in the nation. The Seder will take place at the Gordon Community Center on Thursday, March 26. More details will be forthcoming … just wanted you to have this date on your calendars.